These days anyone can write mobile applications. With tools like Xamarin & Visual Studio, it has become a lot easier. But for successful mobile applications, developers need to have what I call a ‘mobile mindset‘. Mobile mindset is developed gradually after using various devices and numerous mobile applications. One can learn many things from developing this mindset. So, what is this ‘mobile mindset’ all about? Let’s discuss it in this blog post.
Before Developer, Be a Consumer
The idea is to use a hell lot of mobile applications. Try breaking the boundary of famous apps and use applications which you’ve never used before. Observe the user experience. As, a number of applications you will use in daily life, you’ll get an idea of how your application needs to be designed. You can get inspired by some applications or learn from mistakes of others.
Mobile Apps != Web or Desktop Apps
In large organizations, a pool of web/desktop developers are trained to develop mobile applications. However, there is a huge difference in mobile applications and web or desktop applications. There are constraints on screen size and resolution, battery power, processing power, network connectivity and multitasking when it comes to mobile devices. Think about all these challenges before architecting mobile applications.
Screens & Navigations
In the case of desktop/web applications, users can navigate to any page or screen anytime easily because there are menus, navigation & address bars. They can even launch another application or site for some task and come back to your application. However, this luxury isn’t available in mobile apps and if the user needs to tap or swipe in your mobile app for more than 3 times to complete 1 task, perhaps it is a high time for you to redesign the flow of your application. When it comes to screen, try to avoid distractions. Heavy use of multiple navigations, controls on the screen, advertisement banners can lead to bad user experience. There are guide available for user experience and navigation patterns. Learn about them and see which one suits for your application. And remember, more screens, more swipes and bad user experience can lead to unhappy users.
As compared to desktop or laptops, mobile devices have a small screen. It is often called as ‘screen real estate’. Use it wisely. Make controls and ‘next steps‘ discoverable. Use controls which can expand and contract depending on usage. Give hints to the user. Your app has failed if the user has to ‘google’ next steps or read the user manual to use your app.
Data – As & When Required
On the other side, when required, download contextual data. It doesn’t make sense to download the entire brochure of products when the user is only interested in check out with the items in his cart. Use paging, pull-to-refresh mechanisms to download the data while confirming available bandwidth. A user may be connected to a high-speed wifi network or may be connected to 4G network on roaming. This can be a costly affair.
Having said that, remember, if it takes more than a minute to get to the first screen of your application when the user launches it for the first time, probably, he’ll switch to other similar application or service.
Use Feedback Channels
Before publishing your application to the store, use tools like HockeyApp to conduct beta testing. Distribute your application privately and check the impact. Include crash analytics. And once testing phase is complete, release it to the store. Because once the application is available in the store, users will download it, use it. But when it will crash, seldom they will report it. But definitely, rate it 1 star. Without annoying, ask user to rate your app. Users talking about your apps is the best marketing for your app you can get for free.
These are some of the basics of mobile application development, which helps to build ‘mobile mindset’. Thanks to Dipankar, Pooja & Prashant for their valuable feedback over this post. Try these tips in your next mobile app and let us know your feedback through comments.
Enjoy building mobile apps. Happy coding.